Identity Theft Feed

Today's unemployment numbers offered a hopeful sign for the U.S. economy struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The news, however, is not so good for many who in 2020 got these out-of-work benefits. Many recipients of the emergency financial assistance are surprised to learn that unemployment benefits are taxable. Others are even more surprised at the amounts on their Form 1099-G. This is the document sent to taxpayers and copied to the Internal Revenue Service. While social media messages and comments on the ol' blog are purely anecdotal, it seems that quite a few folks think their 2020 unemployment benefits have... Read more →


In addition to looking for another job, folks who got unemployment benefits also have to deal with paying taxes on the payments and, in some cases, other complications. Unemployment benefits can be a lifesaver. That's been especially true during the year+ that we've been dealing with COVID-19 complications. Employers had to reduce services or close completely. In addition to the business costs, the establishments' workers were suddenly facing steep pay cuts or no pay at all. Congress has boosted state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through much of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest federal UI add-on is set to expire in... Read more →


Tax preparers nationwide already are working on clients' returns. Crooks also are working to steal info on and from those tax professionals. The Internal Revenue Service won't start accepting and processing 2020 tax returns until Feb. 12. Tax professionals, however, have been working of their clients returns since the new year arrived. That means tax criminals also doing their so-called jobs. The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and tax industry today announced that there's a new scam email being sent to tax professionals. The phishing message impersonates the IRS and attempts to steal Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs). While... Read more →


Photo by Kay Bell The 2021 filing season won't start until Feb. 12 this year. That's frustrating for the millions of taxpayers who traditionally are early return filers. It's more frustrating for those taxpayers who, because of COVID-19 complications (which also created this year's filing delay), are really counting on their tax refunds to cover expenses. This year's later than usual filing start means it is even more important to get those 1040 forms into the Internal Revenue Service as soon as the agency will take them. If you're still debating about when to file your taxes, here are seven... Read more →


If you want more security for your tax return, the Internal Revenue Service has a deal for you. Every taxpayer now can apply for an Identity Protection Personal Identity Number, or IP PIN. An IP PIN lets the IRS verify that it is indeed you who has filed your tax return. Once you have the six-digit code, the agency won't accept an electronically filed return in your name without it. If a paper return shows up without the IP PIN, it will get added IRS scrutiny. "This is a way to, in essence, lock your tax account, and the IP... Read more →


Four years ago, Congress forced the Internal Revenue Service to again use private collection agents (PCAs). This third deal with debt collectors came after the IRS ended two previous arrangements when they proved to be, shall we say, problematic. Now it looks like the current IRS PCA collaboration also has some issues. Low collection rate: A recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report says that the private tax debt collectors currently under IRS contract have brought in just a fraction — 1.79 percent of the total value of accounts — of the $30 billion in unpaid tax they've... Read more →


There's some bad and not-so-bad news when it comes to the recently discovered hacking of the Treasury Department. Since we're still in god-awful 2020, let's start with the bad news. The hackers, believed by most security experts and many government officials to be Russian, were able to burrow deeply into the U.S. Treasury's computer operations, breaking into systems that are used by the department's highest-ranking officials. The better news is that the Internal Revenue Service, the largest division within Treasury, appears to be unaffected by the cyber attack. That's a relief to those of us who upon hearing that Treasury... Read more →


Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, left, and Committee Chairman Charles Grassley at a hearing in February to question Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the president's fiscal year 2021 budget. (SFC hearing video screen capture) The two men who head the Senate Finance Committee want answers about whether the Internal Revenue Service was among the agencies hacked by foreign agents and they want them now. Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) sent a letter today to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig seeking, in their words, "an immediate briefing on the IRS' efforts to discover whether... Read more →


We all have enough to worry about right now and I don't want to add to anyone's anxiety, but I know some in the tax world are wondering about the implications of the Treasury Department being among U.S. agencies breached by apparently foreign hackers. Multiple news sources reported this weekend that cyber intruders made their way into Treasury, Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security. Word of the U.S. government hacks come on the heels of an announcement by a global cybersecurity firm that it had been breached. Right now, we don't know exactly what happened at Treasury. We're still... Read more →


Hi, I'm Kay and I'm a smartphone addict. I carry my phone from room to room in my house. Back pre-COVID-19 when I left my house, if I realized I somehow forgot to pick it up, I had to turn around, regardless of where I was in my journey, and go back and get it. And its apps are crucial to my coronavirus increased streaming, letting me find out where I saw that "Hey, it's that guy!" actor before or find out more about a great soundtrack tune. I am not alone in my dependence on this iteration of Alexander... Read more →


Among the many things COVID-19 has changed, possibly forever, is how and where we do our jobs. The work from home trend also has provided cyber criminals new ways to steal our identities and money — corporate cash, too — using telework security lapses and system flaws. TGIF! Yeah, workers still say this. However, there's a little less exultation in the announcement nowadays, what with many of us still working from home due to continuing coronavirus pandemic precautions. Plus, COVID-19 means our prior welcome weekend happy hours now are via Zoom. The work from home (WFH) shift also has created... Read more →


Most of us agree that technology has enhanced our lives. It's simplified myriad daily tasks with just a voice command, touch of a device screen or stroke of a keyboard. It's also made things easier for crooks. Identity theft is a snap when criminals can electronically snag your personal and financial data. High tech's illicit aspects quickly spread to the tax world. When the Internal Revenue Service shifted to electronic transactions, tax identity thieves slipped through that digital door, stealing taxpayer identities and filing fake returns to collect fraudulent refunds. Now, though, the IRS is adding an extra electronic lock... Read more →


As we head into December, holiday shopping begins in earnest. Today's Cyber Monday is expected to be the busiest ever, as millions have shifted to online purchasing of just about everything during the COVID-19 pandemic. This increasing burst of internet transactions also means more chances for crooks to steal your payment and personal information. Much of the data that criminals are trying to snag this holiday shopping season also can be used during the rapidly approaching 2021 tax season to steal you tax identity and use it to file a fake return claiming a fraudulent tax refund. That's why on... Read more →


As we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is thinking about masks. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has been working on masking rules for a while and, coincidentally in this year of COVID-19, has taken steps to offer added protection for taxpayers. The IRS masks are not literal covers. In fact, they lessen, not add. But the reductions will mask — that is, make it more difficult to see — personal and business identification numbers and information on common tax documents. And that should help reduce tax identity theft. Last four Social Security digits: This summer, the IRS... Read more →


It's no surprise that bad people take advantage of bad situations. That's why as we continue to cope with COVID-19, pandemic-related scams — tax and otherwise — proliferate. The latest coronavirus tax scam arrives via a text message. COVID-19 text scam warning: It was created by thieves who are trying to trick people into disclosing bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment (EIP), according to the Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners. This scam's text message tells recipients: "You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further... Read more →


Here are 12 scam avoidance tips, six for catastrophe victims and six for those who want to help. Tropical Storm Beta hanging off the Texas Gulf Coast Monday, Sept. 21, afternoon. Image courtesy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC). The Atlantic hurricane season has already made the record books. Fires are devastating vast areas of the Western United States. Unusual weather events like the Midwestern derecho have wrecked homes and businesses. That means millions of folks are looking for help. There are many sources of assistance, from charitable organizations to help people deal with a... Read more →


More than 160 million people have received the COVID-19 economic impact payment (EIP) that was approved in late March. Still, says the Internal Revenue Service, that's not everyone who's eligible for the relief money. In fact, the tax agency says around nine million Americans still are due the stimulus. But to get it this year, they need to contact the IRS. And the IRS will be sending them a special letter later this month to encourage them to file for the relief payment, preferably by Oct. 15. Don't have to file, but qualify for COVID cash: These nine-or-so million folks... Read more →


If tax it the time of coronavirus taught us anything, it's that tax professionals are indispensable. On the heels of getting a handle on the 2017 tax reform changes, tax pros this filing season were handed even more jobs. They helped people understand COVID-19 economic relief payments, what tax tasks were delayed until when and the Paycheck Protection Program. And now, just days after Tax Day 2020 finally came and went, another coronavirus stimulus package, no doubt with more tax implications, is in the works. The bottom line is that tax help from a reputable tax pro is critical, in... Read more →


You're following all the recommended pandemic precautions. You stay home. You have your groceries and meals delivered. If you must go out, it's for drive-through or curbside pickup of necessary items. You always wear a mask when you leave your home. But you still might not be safe from the latest iteration of the coronavirus outbreak. This time, though, it's not medical, but financial. Scammers are coming to us via emails and phone calls, using a variety of tricks to get their hands on our COVID-19 economic impact payments (EIPs) and other funds. The Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation (CI)... Read more →


Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor a global pandemic stays protectively-masked U.S. Postal Service carriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. The COVID-19 economic relief payment checks really are in the mail. That means a whole new slew of coronavirus scams also are showing up via phone calls, as well as in people's mail boxes, both electronic and real-life curbside ones. Since millions of actual paper COVID-19 relief checks are being snail mailed, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is involved in the scam-fighting efforts. These law enforcement officers are joining other federal... Read more →


The Treasury Department says it's on schedule to get coronavirus economic recovery payments to folks' bank accounts next week. There's even better news for those who want to change the payment's delivery method from snail mail to direct deposit. Politico's Morning Tax newsletter reports that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Capitol Hill lawmakers that the online tool that could speed up delivery of the COVID-19 money also will up and running next week. That's the mechanism that, as I noted in yesterdays' post, whereby folks who've previously received refunds as paper checks sent via the U.S. Postal Service or didn't... Read more →